Opening Bell: 1.4.18

Morgan Stanley calls a top; Jeremy Grantham calls for a melt-up; Merrill Lynch issues fatwa against bitcoin; and much more
Author:
Publish date:
(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Morgan Stanley Wealth Exits Junk Bonds, Warns on Recession Risk (BBG)
“While the tax cuts just enacted in the U.S. may lead to better growth in the short term, they may also bring forth the excesses we typically see before a recession — which is something credit markets figure out before equities,” according to the note. “We recently took our remaining high yield positions to zero as we prepare for deterioration in lower-quality earnings in the U.S. led by lower operating margins.”

Intel's CEO reportedly sold shares after the company already knew about massive security flaws (CNBC)
According to an SEC filing in late November, Krzanich acquired and sold 644,135 shares at a weighted average price of $44.05 by exercising his options. Those options let him purchase the shares at prices between $12.985 and $26.795, significantly lower than where Intel was trading at the time. He sold another 245,743 shares that he already owned at a weighted average of $44.55. That brought down the total number of shares he owns to 250,000 — which is the minimum number of shares that the CEO of Intel is required to own, according to a Motley Fool report. Krzanich sold all of those shares for a little over $39 million, apparently netting about $25 million.

Merrill Lynch Bars Trading of Bitcoin Fund, Futures (WSJ)
Merrill Lynch has blocked clients and financial advisers who trade on their behalf from buying bitcoin, citing concerns over the cryptocurrency’s investment suitability. The ban applies to all accounts and precludes the firm’s roughly 17,000 advisers not only from pitching bitcoin-related investments but also from executing client requests to trade the Grayscale Investment Trust bitcoin fund, according to a person familiar with the matter. RELATED: Egypt's Religious Leader: Crypto Trading Forbidden Under Islamic Law

JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs come top of banker pay league in Britain (Reuters)
JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs paid their top bankers in Britain an average of $1.5 million each in 2016, compared with $1 million for local rivals HSBC and Barclays, data released by the banks last year shows. Data compiled by Reuters from 13 banks’ filings, some of which were released only late last month, shows they paid an average of $1.06 million to such staff in 2016, down from $2 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2013 when new European Union rules aimed at curbing banker bonuses took effect.

Bank analyst very proud of his cryptocurrency mining rig (FT Alphaville)
Our guy at RBC published “The $10tril Bull Case” — not just a bullish piece, mind you, the bullish piece — for “the Crypto-Currency space.” Steves also included a photo of a home-built digital currency “mining rig” in his 3 Jan note, metaphorically shaking his fist into the mighty gale of Mifid II the day it made landfall.

Bracing Yourself for a Possible Near-Term Melt-Up: A Very Personal View (Jeremy Grantham)
I find myself in an interesting position for an investor from the value school. I recognize on one hand that this is one of the highest-priced markets in US history. On the other hand, as a historian of the great equity bubbles, I also recognize that we are currently showing signs of entering the blow-off or melt-up phase of this very long bull market. The data on the high price of the market is clean and factual. We can be as certain as we ever get in stock market analysis that the current price is exceptionally high. In contrast, my judgment on the melt-up is based on a mishmash of statistical and psychological factors based on previous eras, each one very different, so that much of the information available is not easily comparable. Yet, strangely, I find the less statistical data more compelling in this bubble context than the simple fact of overpricing. Whether you will also, dear reader, remains to be seen.

Why Low Inflation Is No Surprise (Project Syndicate)
In my view, interpreting today’s low inflation as a symptom of temporary supply-side shocks will most likely prove to be a mistake. This diagnosis seems to misread the historical evidence from the period between the early 1970s and the late 1990s, and is thus based on a fundamentally flawed assumption about the primary driver of inflation in the global North since World War II.

"You Can’t Make This S--- Up": My Year Inside Trump's Insane White House (Michael Wolff/Hollywood Reporter) Donald Trump's small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country's future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job. At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.

Related

(Getty Images)

Opening Bell: 4.19.17

Morgan Stanley does victory lap around Goldman; Treasury Department wants your opinion on century bonds; which emoji makes the best sex toy?; and more.

Opening Bell: 08.16.12

No Criminal Case Is Likely In Loss At MF Global (NYT) A criminal investigation into the collapse of the brokerage firm MF Global and the disappearance of about $1 billion in customer money is now heading into its final stage without charges expected against any top executives. After 10 months of stitching together evidence on the firm's demise, criminal investigators are concluding that chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, allowed the money to disappear, according to people involved in the case...In the most telling indication yet that the MF Global investigation is winding down, federal authorities are seeking to interview the former chief of the firm, Jon Corzine, next month, according to the people involved in the case. Authorities hope that Corzine, who is expected to accept the invitation, will shed light on the actions of other employees at MF Global. Standard Chartered's Deal Rankles Regulators (WSJ) Officials at the U.K. Financial Services Authority complained afterward to the New York regulator, which oversees Standard Chartered's U.S. unit, that the sudden move could have damaged the stability of the bank and that the lack of advance notice breached long-standing protocol among bank regulators, these people said. The New York case ended Tuesday when Standard Chartered agreed to pay the regulator $340 million to settle allegations it broke U.S. laws in handling transactions for Iranian customers...The New York office's success in pursuing a case without the help of the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Treasury Department could embolden other state regulators, while adding to pressure on federal regulators who have been criticized for a perceived failure to confront large banks. "Holding a bank accountable for past misconduct doesn't need to take years of negotiation over the size of the penalty," said Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.). "It simply requires a regulator with backbone to act." Knight Puts Fate In Familiar Hands (WSJ) At about 9 p.m. on Aug. 1, Knight Chief Executive Thomas Joyce called Carlos Hernandez to seek emergency funding from J.P. Morgan, the lead bank on a primary credit line, to plug losses from errant trades caused by a software upgrade, according to people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Hernandez, J.P. Morgan's global head of equities, had just returned from business meetings in Mexico. "We've had these issues," the Knight chief, known as T.J., told his longtime acquaintance, the people said. "We're looking for help." J.P. Morgan executives have been on the receiving end of similar pleas for help in some of Wall Street's biggest meltdowns. Jobless Claims In U.S. Little Changed As Market Stable (Bloomberg) Jobless claims climbed by 2,000 to 366,000 in the week ended Aug. 11, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for an increase to 365,000. The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 363,750, the fewest since the week ended March 31. Chocolate Losing To Cocaine On Colombia Cocoa Slump (Bloomberg) Cocaine is proving a more resilient commodity than chocolate in Colombia, the largest supplier of the narcotic to the U.S. Prices of cocoa beans, used to make chocolate, have dropped 40 percent this year in Colombia, South America’s third-largest supplier, as the cost of leaves processed into cocaine holds steady, according to data compiled by police and growers. Morgan Stanley Unit Fined Over Trader’s $1.3 Billion Bet (Bloomberg) Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, the brokerage venture of Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, was fined $450,000 after a trader amassed a $1.3 billion bet in 2009, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority records show. The brokerage didn’t have enough controls in place to detect that Jared Weinryt, 31, had breached his $116 million trading limit as he made overnight bets on futures, Finra said this month. The trades led to losses for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney of about $14.9 million, according to Finra. MF Global Trustee to Join Existing Suits Against Executives (WSJ) The move Wednesday by James Giddens could accelerate a morass of lawsuits that seek money from former MF Global executives, directors and other people accused in the suits of failing to protect customer money. As a result of the agreement, Mr. Giddens will give lawyers in those cases access to documents and other evidence gathered in his probe. Facebook Freeing 60% More Shares Seen Weighing On Stock (Bloomberg) Early Facebook investors such as DST Global Ltd., Goldman Sachs, Elevation Partners and Accel Partners get a green light today to start selling part of their holdings, Menlo Park, California-based Facebook has said in filings. That’s after the lifting of restrictions designed to prevent a flood of shares immediately after an IPO. The prospect of more stock sales means Facebook will need to work even harder to convince investors that it deserves a higher valuation, compared with earnings, than all but two of its closest competitors including Google. The shares freed up today make up only 14 percent of the 1.91 billion that will be available for sales in the coming nine months. “Buckle your seatbelts for the next couple of months until they make it through all these shares coming unlocked,” said Tom Forte, an analyst at Telsey Advisory Group in New York.

Opening Bell: 12.21.12

Critics Say UBS Let Off Too Easy (WSJ) Our goal here is not to destroy a major financial institution," Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's criminal division, said Wednesday after the $1.5 billion fine against UBS was announced. Prosecutors have to at least "evaluate whether or not innocent people might lose jobs" and other types of potential collateral damage. Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), a Senate Finance Committee member, said he is unsatisfied that prosecutors didn't go higher up the corporate ladder at UBS than its Japanese subsidiary..."The reluctance of U.S. prosecutors to file criminal charges over big-time bank fraud is frustrating and hard to understand," Mr. Grassley said. The $1.5 billion fine is a "spit in the ocean compared to the money lost by borrowers at every level, including taxpayers." Regulatory 'Whale' Hunt Advances (WSJ) The first regulatory ripples from the "London Whale" trading fiasco are about to hit J.P. Morgan Chase. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, led by Comptroller Thomas Curry, is preparing to take a formal action demanding that J.P. Morgan remedy the lapses in risk controls that allowed a small group of London-based traders to rack up losses of more than $6 billion this year, according to people familiar with the company's discussions with regulators. Khuzami To Leave SEC Enforcement Post (WSJ) Robert Khuzami, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement unit, plans to leave the agency as soon as next month, a person familiar with the expected move said Thursday. Boehner Drops ‘Plan B’ as Budget Effort Turns to Disarray (Bloomberg) House Speaker John Boehner scrapped a plan to allow higher tax rates on annual income above $1 million, yielding to anti-tax resistance within his own party and throwing already-stalled budget talks deeper into turmoil. He will hold a news conference today at 10 a.m. Washington time to discuss the next steps in the budget dispute, a Republican leadership aide said. House members and senators won’t vote on the end-of-year budget issues until after Christmas, giving them less than a week to reach agreement to avert tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January. The partisan divide hardened yesterday, making the path to a deal more uncertain. BlackRock Sees Distortions in Country Ratings Seeking S&P Change (Bloomberg) Credit rating companies are distorting capital markets by assigning the same debt ranking to countries from Italy to Thailand and Kazakhstan, according to BlackRock, the world’s biggest money manager. While 23 countries share the BBB+ to BBB- levels assessed by Standard & Poor’s, the lowest investment grades, up from 15 in 2008 at the beginning of the financial crisis, their debt to gross domestic product ratios range from 12 percent for Kazakhstan to 44 percent for Thailand and 126 percent for Italy, International Monetary Fund estimates show. The cost of insuring against a default by Italy, ranked BBB+, over the next five years is almost triple that for Thailand, which has the same rating. For BlackRock, which oversees $3.7 trillion in assets, the measures are so untrustworthy that the firm is setting up its own system to gauge the risk of investing in government bonds. This year, the market moved in the opposite direction suggested by changes to levels and outlooks 53 percent of the time, data compiled by Bloomberg show. “The rating agencies were very, very slow to the game,” Benjamin Brodsky, a managing director at BlackRock International Ltd., said in a Nov. 23 interview from London. “They all came after the fact. For us, this is not good enough.” If You Bought Greek Bonds in January You Earned 80% (Bloomberg) Greek government bonds returned 80 percent this year, compared with 3.7 percent for German bunds and 6.1 percent for Spanish securities, Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes show. It’s the first year since 2009 that investors made money on Greek securities, with 2012 providing the biggest advance since Merrill began compiling the data in 1998, according to figures that don’t reflect this month’s debt buyback by the government. Texas lawmaker: ‘Ping-pongs’ deadlier than guns (The Ticket) Incoming Texas State Rep. Kyle Kacal says guns don’t kill people—ping-pong kills people. "I've heard of people being killed playing ping-pong—ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns," he says. "Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything." The lifetime rancher, who will take his seat in 2013 as a freshman, says that new gun restrictions are unnecessary. Kacal, who reportedly operates a hunting business, notably came out against a bill instructing Texans how to secure their assault weapons. "People know what they need to do to be safe. We don't need to legislate that—it's common sense," he said. "Once everyone's gun is locked up, then the bad guys know everyone's gun is locked up." Flare-up in war of words between Ackman, Herbalife (NYP) “This is the highest conviction I’ve ever had about any investment I’ve ever made,” Ackman said yesterday in a series of interviews. The investor told CNBC that he expects the Federal Trade Commission will take a “hard look” at the company. The heavyweight battle picked up steam over the last two days and has become, in the typically slow days leading up to Christmas, one of the most-watched events on Wall Street. As the financial world watched, Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson returned fire — calling Ackman’s statements “bogus” and asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to probe the motives of Ackman and his Pershing Square Capital hedge fund. A spokeswoman said if Johnson were allowed the chance to face-off against the investor at the Downtown conference, the CEO “would have been able to tear Mr. Ackman’s premises and interpretation of our business model apart.” Citigroup Said to Give CCA Managers 75% Stake in Funds for Free (Bloomberg) Among Vikram Pandit’s last jobs as Citigroup’s chief executive officer was to decide the fate of the bank’s hedge-fund unit, which employs some of his oldest colleagues. He agreed to give them most of it for free. While Citigroup is keeping a 25 percent stake, managers at the Citi Capital Advisors unit will pay nothing for the remaining 75 percent of that business as it becomes a new firm managing as much as $2.5 billion of the bank’s money, according to people with knowledge of the plan. The lender will pay the executives fees while gradually pulling out assets to comply with impending U.S. rules, said the people, who requested anonymity because the terms aren’t public. The deal was Citigroup’s response to the Volcker rule. Peter Madoff Is Sentenced to 10 Years for His Role in Fraud (Dealbook) A lawyer by training, Peter Madoff is the second figure in the scandal to be sentenced. His older brother, Bernard, pleaded guilty in March 2009 and is serving a prison term of 150 years. UK Boom in Pound Shops: An Austerity-Proof Business Model? (CNBC) Pound shops in the U.K. are reporting massive increases in profits across the board showing that the formula "pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap" has particular resonance in Britain's current age of austerity. Names like "Poundstretcher," "Poundland" and "99p Stores" in the U.K. have become high street stalwarts as other brands go bust. The chains, immediately recognizable on price point, are opening new stores and reporting record results reflecting the increasing public demand for cheaper goods. U.K. based "Poundland" is one such chain reporting steep sales growth as its range of 3,000 items -- from umbrellas and pregnancy tests (it sells 14,000 a week) to bird feeders and bags of crisps all priced at one pound – resonates with cash-strapped Britons. In the year to April 2012, the Warburg Pincus owned company said its turnover increased 22 percent to 780 million pounds ($1.25 billion) and profits increased by 50 percent to 18.3 million pounds from last year's figure of 12.2 million. Former Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton admits to life as a $600-an-hour hooker (NYP) Steamy, lingerie-clad images of the champion runner helped tout her services on the Web site of a Vegas escort agency called Haley Heston’s Private Collection, where Favor Hamilton operated under the name “Kelly Lundy,” according to The Smoking Gun. Customers could hire her lithe Olympic-class runner’s body for $600 an hour, $1,000 for two hours and $6,000 for 24 hours. The site described her build as “athletic,” her bosom as “perky,” and her belly button as “pierced.” She was willing to provide horny customers the full “girlfriend experience,” and would also engage in a certain undisclosed sex act for an extra $300. “I enjoy men of all shapes, sizes and colors, and I have an affinity for women (I am bisexual),” “Kelly” wrote on her page on the escort service’s Web site. “I consider dates with couples an experience to cherish.” Her sexual skills reportedly earned her a high rating on The Erotic Review, a Web site frequented by prostitution fans. Favor Hamilton’s lusty secret life might have stayed secret if she had not made the mistake of revealing her true identity to some of her wealthy johns, who went to the media.

Opening Bell: 06.12.13

Pimco Sees 60% Chance of Global Recession in Five Years (Bloomberg) Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s largest active bond manager, said investors should cut risk amid a more than 60 percent chance of a global recession in the next three to five years. Global growth will slow, keeping inflation in check, and “economic volatility” will increase, Saumil Parikh, a portfolio manager at Newport Beach, California-based Pimco, said in a report being posted on the firm’s website today. Investors shouldn’t add risk in the search for yield, he said. “The global economy experiences a recession every six years or so, and the frequency of global recessions tends to increase when global indebtedness is high and falling as opposed to when indebtedness is low and rising,” Parikh, who focuses on asset allocation, multisector fixed income and absolute-return portfolios, said in the report. The last global recession was four years ago, he said. Banks Get Reprieve on New Swaps Rule (WSJ) Some of biggest banks on Wall Street will get an additional two years to comply with a post-financial crisis rule requiring they move risky swap activities into separate affiliates. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said it granted extensions to seven banks, giving them until July 2015 to comply with so-called "swaps push-out" rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. ... The OCC notified Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., HSBC Holdings PLC, Morgan Stanley and U.S. Bancorp that they were granted a 24-month extension in response to their requests for a longer transition period. The move comes less than a week after the Federal Reserve said foreign banks also will be eligible for the two-year delay in complying with the rule, which is slated to take effect July 16. Emerging market assets suffer in fierce sell-off (FT) Emerging economies have been among the prime beneficiaries of ultra-loose global monetary policy as central banks led by the Fed have flooded financial markets with more than $12tn of extra liquidity since the financial crisis. But signs of an economic slowdown spreading from China and indications that the Fed could reduce the pace of its $85bn-a-month bond purchases have triggered a sharp correction in emerging markets. The South African rand and the Brazilian real touched four-year lows against the US dollar on Tuesday, and the Indian rupee fell to a record low. Even relatively robust countries like the Philippines and Mexico – long favourites of investors – have been hit by a spate of selling. Some central banks have begun to intervene to stem the currency slides. Is U.S. stock trading safer? Fewer erroneous trades seen (Reuters) More than three years after the "flash crash" terrified many by temporarily wiping out almost $1 trillion of U.S. stock market value in a few minutes, there are signs that the number of erroneous and aberrant trades is dropping. The use of circuit breakers for individual securities in the wake of the May 6, 2010 plunge, and the introduction of tougher risk-management controls for broker-dealers in November 2010 appear to have helped stabilize trading, market experts and regulators said. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the security industry's watchdog, said the number of reports of "clearly erroneous" trades it received was down 84 percent in the last six months of 2012 compared with the first six months of 2009. Facebook Investors Press Zuckerberg on Stock Price at Annual Meeting (CNBC) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to tackle concerns about its stock head-on at the first annual shareholder meeting Tuesday, but investors pressed for answers about why the price is still down a year after the company went public. "The answer is we understand that a lot of people are disappointed with the performance of the stock, and we really are, too," Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks before taking questions. ... The stock, priced at $38 when the company went public in May 2012, hit $17 a few months ago and was trading at about $24 in afternoon trading Friday. Facebook can't control the stock price but is focused on developing the best products to create more shareholder value, Zuckerberg said. NJ Mayor Apologizes for Calling Residents "Annoying" (NBC) The mayor of Toms River apologized Tuesday night for comments he made about an area battered by Sandy, but not all residents were satisfied. Last week, Mayor Thomas Kelaher told Bloomberg News that he thought residents of Ortley Beach, where many are still without homes, were "annoying." "I certainly never intended to be disrespectful to the people who live in Ortley beach," Kelaher said at a meeting Tuesday. Marketfield Poet-Philosopher Pair Bet Europe for Top Fund (Bloomberg) Michael Aronstein, a poet, and Michael Shaoul, a doctor of philosophy, have made their MainStay Marketfield Fund the world’s fastest-growing by anticipating recoveries in the most-hated assets. Marketfield grew more than five-fold to $9.5 billion in the past year, the biggest increase of a fund with more than $5 billion in assets, after betting on a rebound in U.S. housing stocks and European shares. Now, their success relies on Irish and Italian stocks rallying and equities in China , Brazil and India tumbling. The New York-based fund has advanced 70 percent since July 2007, more than triple the return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, data compiled by Bloomberg show. “I don’t know where the level is,” Aronstein, a former Merrill Lynch strategist who writes poetry in his spare time, said of the potential for further declines in developing nations’ stocks in an interview April 4. “But if we are right, it’s going to get to the point where people cannot stand it anymore.” Metacapital in Worst Slide as Bloodbath Roils Funds (Bloomberg) Deepak Narula rose to fame as manager of the best-performing hedge fund last year by navigating the government’s stimulus efforts. He’s having a far harder time as the Federal Reserve moves closer to an exit. Metacapital Management LP’s flagship $1.5 billion fund lost an estimated 6.4 percent last month, the worst decline since it started in 2008, according to a letter to investors obtained by Bloomberg News. That followed drops of 0.5 percent in April and 0.1 percent in March, after 17 months of consecutive gains including a 41 percent return last year. ... “It’s been a bloodbath the last four to six weeks,” said Troy Gayeski, a senior portfolio manager who helps invest client money in hedge funds at SkyBridge Capital, which manages about $7.7 billion. “It was a confluence of just about everything” from investors’ concerns that refinancing would pick up among some borrowers who’ve had trouble qualifying to the slump in the mortgage debt that the Fed is buying, he said. SoftBank's Son Felt Time Pressure to Push Sprint Deal Forward (WSJ) In the end, SoftBank Corp. Chief Executive Masayoshi Son concluded that time was money. After a weekend of wheeling and dealing, he was willing to sweeten the Japanese company's bid for Sprint Nextel Corp. that Mr. Son for weeks had been saying already was high enough. His hope with the new bid is to keep the acquisition on track for midsummer completion and resolve complications raised by a rival offer. Mr. Son agreed for SoftBank to throw another $1.5 billion on top of the $20.1 billion already offered to achieve the "certainty of timing" for closing the deal in early July, a person familiar with the new proposal said. Pattern of negative correlation between HY bonds and treasuries has been broken (Sober Look) Since the financial crisis, the correlation between treasuries and many credit assets such as high yield bonds (HY) has been strongly negative. ... Recent events however broke that pattern. We've had a number of days with both the longer dated treasuries and HY selling off. That means the HY asset class is now responding to rate moves (not just spread). The 3-month correlation between prices of longer dated treasuries and HY bonds is nearing zero. This move toward a "less negative" correlation with treasuries is also visible in other credit assets as well. Sub-investment-grade credit investors are all of a sudden paying much closer attention to rates. US warns EU against exempting film industry from trade talks (FT) The US government has warned Brussels that EU efforts to placate French demands to exempt its film industry from high-profile transatlantic trade talks could unleash a torrent of demands in Washington for similar reciprocal carve-outs that would imperil a comprehensive deal. ... José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, met European filmmakers on Tuesday, including “The Artist” star Bérénice Bejo, to reassure them the trade deal will not jeopardise their protections. “Let me state loud and clear: the cultural exception is not negotiable,” Mr Barroso said after the meeting. Most Americans Aren’t Excited About Their Jobs (WSJ) FYI. State Dept. officials deny prostitution cover-up allegations (CBS) The allegations were first brought to light by CBS News' John Miller, who reported that according to an internal State Department Inspector General's memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. One specific example mentioned in the memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who "routinely ditched ... his protective security detail," and inspectors suspect this was in order to "solicit sexual favors from prostitutes." ... In response to the allegation, Gutman said on Tuesday: "I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating. I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity."

Opening Bell: 01.15.13

Westminster Hits At Goldman Sachs Bonus Plan (FT) Goldman Sachs provoked a furious reaction in Westminster after it emerged that the U.S. investment bank was mulling a plan to delay its U.K. bonus payments to take advantage of the imminent cut to the top rate of tax. John Mann, a Labour member of the Treasury select committee, criticized an "opportunistic money grab" by banks at a time of intensifying public anger against the sector. Some 10 banks had previously considered delaying bonuses until the top rate falls from 50 to 45 pence - although most have since concluded that this would be damaging. Chris Leslie, shadow Treasury minister, said banks needed to think carefully about their reputations. Fitch Warns Of US Downgrade Over Debt Fight (CNBC) In a statement Fitch said the debt ceiling was "an ineffective and potentially dangerous mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline. It does not prevent tax and spending decisions that will incur debt issuance in excess of the ceiling while the sanction of not raising the ceilingrisks a sovereign default and renders such a threat incredible." Fitch Upbeat On Ireland (Reuters) If [Ireland's] debts could be shared out among euro zone states through the region's bailout mechanisms there could be scope for Ireland's BBB-plus rating to rise into the single-A category, according to Fitch analyst Douglas Renwick. "If there is an element of risk sharing, say perhaps through the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) over a bit of time, it could rise back to the single-A (range)," Renwick said. JPMorgan Ordered To Fix Lapses (WSJ) US regulators hit JPMorgan with four formal enforcement actions targeting lapses in risk-management and money-laundering controls, including the first sanctions in response to the bank's multibillion-dollar 2012 trading debacle. One set of cease-and-desist orders from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve instructs the largest U.S. bank by assets to remedy the breakdowns that allowed a small group of London-based traders to rack up more than $6 billion in losses last year. Another requires the bank to beef up its antimoney-laundering procedures and mirrors an action taken last April when regulators ordered Citigroup to upgrade its transaction-monitoring procedures and enhance internal audit. None of the orders issued Monday require any fines or monetary penalties, but regulators left the door open to future action. Wells Fargo Bets On Charlotte Trading After BofA Flees (Bloomberg) \Wells Fargo is betting its securities business can thrive 600 miles from New York in the same city Bank of America's traders largely abandoned. The first of 900 Wells Fargo employees moved last month into a new space on two floors of a 48-story tower in Charlotte, North Carolina. From their windows they can see the complex a half-mile away where Bank of America built its own state-of-the- art facility less than a decade ago for about 550 traders and investment bankers. Most have since been fired or moved to New York. Police: Teacher offers sexual favors to officer to avoid DUI arrest (WPBF) According to the arrest report, an empty gallon jug of Carlo Rossi wine was found behind the driver's seat of Maloney's damaged van, which was parked on the side of the street when officers arrived. Police said Maloney refused to cooperate with officers during their DUI investigation. Police said she began yelling at them and made random vulgar statements. While she was on her way to the police station, Maloney allegedly told an officer, "How much do I need to pay you to just let me go? Don't you understand I am a school teacher?" She then offered to perform oral sex on the officer and let him fondle her breasts, the report stated. RBS Libor Fine May Hit $800M+ (Bloomberg) US and UK regulators could hit the Royal Bank of Scotland with as much as $804 million in fines next week to settle allegations traders tried to rig interest rates, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Investment banking chief John Hourican and Peter Nielsen, the head of markets, may also be asked to leave because they had responsibility for the parts of the company where the alleged wrongdoing occurred. The fine would be the second-largest levied by regulators in their investigation into allegations traders at the world’s biggest lenders manipulated submissions used to set the London interbank offered rate. UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest lender, was fined $1.5 billion in December for rate-rigging, exceeding the 290 million pounds Barclays paid in June. Bob Khuzami, Master Blaster (NYP) Robert Khuzami yesterday took aim at a Columbia University professor who chided the SEC’s head of enforcement for not suing enough high-ranking individuals at large financial institutions, choosing instead to settle with those companies...Khuzami said in a blistering 1,500-word article in the National Law Journal that the SEC has charged a total of 102 individuals associated with the credit crisis, including high-level executives at Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Bear Stearns, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...It’s the second time in as many weeks that Khuzami has called out his critics by name. Just before New Year’s Eve, the Brooklyn native blasted Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, for a New York Times blog that said Khuzami’s hire was a “mistake” because of his former ties to Deutsche Bank. Khuzami shot back in the comment section of the blog — an unusual move for a public official. Wall Street Pay Gets Tougher Look (WSJ) Daniel Loeb, who runs hedge-fund firm Third Point LLC, has raised questions about whether compensation levels at Morgan Stanley are justified given the New York company's size and relative simplicity compared with larger bank. Hedge Funds' Manhattan Migration (WSJ) Of the new firms starting out in Manhattan, Greenwich or Stamford, about 86% picked the Big Apple, on average, from 2003 to 2008, according to eVestment, which tracks data on about 70% of U.S. hedge-fund firms. In 2009 and 2010, Manhattan was home to an average of 92% of the fund launches. Data for 2011 suggest the trend has continued. "There are blips in the data, but it's clear launches shifted toward New York after the crisis," says Peter Laurelli, eVestment's head of research. Detroit mafia boss says Jimmy Hoffa is buried in shallow grave north of Detroit (NYDN) Tony Zerilli, 85, says Hoffa was buried in a field outside Detroit, about 20 miles from the restaurant where he was last seen in July 1975. The aging Zerilli, who was in prison at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance, told TV news stations WNBC and WDIV that the plan was to move Hoffa’s body, but that never happened. “The master plan was, that I understood, was that they were going to put him in a shallow grave here. Then, they were going to take him from here to Rogers City upstate,” Zerilli said. “There was a hunting lodge and they were going to bury in a shallow grave then take him up there for final burial. Then, I understand, that it just fell through.” It was unclear why Zerilli chose to speak now about the 37-year-old mystery that has elicited dozens of false leads and conspiracy theories in the past. Zerilli said is to be ailing and penniless since his release from prison in 2008. WNBC reported he is promoting an upcoming book titled "Hoffa Found.” “All this speculation about where he is and he’s not,” Zerilli said. “They say he was in a meat grinder. It’s all baloney.”

Opening Bell: 02.05.13

Barclays CEO Vows To Improve Bank's Ethics (WSJ) Chief Executive Antony Jenkins said Tuesday he is "shredding" the legacy of the bank's self-serving culture by improving its ethics and moving beyond the misconduct issues that have cost it billions of pounds. Mr. Jenkins told a U.K. parliamentary group that his efforts so far include changing the way employee bonuses are calculated and abolishing commissions on financial-product sales. He said the changes would take time to produce results, but that ultimately he wants to eliminate a culture that at times has been "too short-term focused, too aggressive and on occasions, too self-serving." "Our resolve and intent behind this is absolute," Mr. Jenkins said. McGraw-Hill, S&P Sued by U.S. Over Mortgage-Bond Ratings (Bloomberg) The U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, accusing McGraw-Hill and S&P of mail fraud, wire fraud and financial institutions fraud. Under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, the U.S. seeks civil penalties that can be as high as $1.1 million for each violation. Earlier today, the company’s shares tumbled the most in 25 years when it said it expected the lawsuit, the first federal case against a ratings firm for grades related to the credit crisis. “It’s a new use of this statute,” Claire Hill, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who has written about the ratings firms, said in a phone interview today from Minneapolis. “This is not a line to my knowledge that has been taken before.” Dell Nears $25 Billion Deal To Go Private (WSJ) Late Monday, Mr. Dell was in talks with Microsoft Corp and private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners to offer shareholders between $13.50 and $13.75 a share, said people familiar with the matter, about a 25% premium to Dell's stock price in January before the possibility of a deal became public. The buyout, if approved by shareholders, would be the largest such deal since the financial crisis. It also would be an admission by Mr. Dell that he wasn't able to pull off the changes needed to improve his company's revenue and profit under Wall Street's glare. The buyout would give Mr. Dell the largest stake in the company, ensuring that the 47-year-old is the one who gets to oversee any changes. Gross: Beware 'Credit Supernova' Looming Ahead (CNBC) The head of the Pacific Investment Management bond giant has issued an ominous forecast in which he worries that the global central bank-induced credit bubble "is running out of energy and time." As a result, investors will have to get used to an atmosphere of diminishing returns and portfolios that will hold more hard assets like commodities and fewer less-tangible financial assets like stocks. "Our credit-based financial markets and the economy it supports are levered, fragile and increasingly entropic," Gross said in his February newsletter. Obama to Meet With CEOs of Goldman, Yahoo, Other Firms (Reuters) President Barack Obama will meet with chief executives from 12 companies including Goldman Sachs Group's Lloyd Blankfein and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer on Tuesday to discuss immigration and deficit reduction, according to a White House official. "The president will continue his engagement with outside leaders on a number of issues, including immigration reform and how it fits into his broader economic agenda, and his efforts to achieve balanced deficit reduction," the official said Monday. Other chief executives include Arne Sorenson of Marriott International, Jeff Smisek of United Continental Holdings, and Klaus Kleinfeld of Alcoa. A Billion-Dollar Club And Not So Exclusive (NYT) an unprecedented number of high technology start-ups, easily 25 and possibly exceeding 40, are valued at $1 billion or more. Many employees are quietly getting rich, or at least building a big cushion against a crash, as they sell shares to outside investors. Airbnb, Pinterest, SurveyMonkey and Spotify are among the better-known privately held companies that have reached $1 billion. But many more with less familiar names, including Box, Violin Memory and Zscaler, are selling services to other companies. “A year from now that might be 100,” said Jim Goetz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, a venture capital business. Sequoia counts a dozen such companies in its portfolio. It is part of what he calls “a permanent change” in the way people are building their companies and financers are pushing up values. The owners of these companies say the valuations make them giddy, but also create unease. Once $1 billion was a milestone, now it is also a millstone. Bigger expectations must be managed and greater uncertainty looms. Donald Trump to sue Bill Maher after bet feud (Politico) Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Monday in California against liberal comic Bill Maher, suing him for $5 million after Trump says Maher did not follow through on a $5 million public bet he made on “The Tonight Show.” “I don’t know whether this case will be won or lost, but I felt a major obligation to bring it on behalf of the charities,” Trump said in a public statement first obtained by POLITICO. Last month, Maher said on NBC to Jay Leno that he would pay $5 million to Trump’s charity of choice if he provided a birth certificate proving that he’s not “spawn of his mother having sex with orangutan.” It was similar to an offer Trump made to President Barack Obama during the presidential campaign season, in which Trump wanted Obama to release his college records. Trump’s statement continued: “Bill Maher made an unconditional offer while offer while on The Jay Leno Show and I, without hesitation, accepted his offer and provided him with the appropriate documentation. Money-Market Funds Best By Excess Cash (WSJ) Money-market funds have a high-quality problem: investors are entrusting them with too much cash. The flood of money is prompting the funds, which buy short-term, top-rated debt, to seek higher returns in investments that until recently were seen as too risky, including French bank debt. Investors plowed $149 billion into U.S.-based money-market funds between the start of November and Jan. 30, bringing total assets under management to $2.695 trillion, close to the most since mid-2011, according to the Investment Company Institute. Knight Capital Group to Cut Workforce by 5 Percent (Reuters) Knight Capital, which recently agreed to be bought for $1.4 billion by Getco, will lay off 5 percent of its global workforce as part of efforts to restructure the automated trading firm, according to a regulatory filing released on Monday. FTC Corrects Language On Herbalife (NYP) The Federal Trade Commission yesterday corrected an earlier statement regarding a “law enforcement investigation” into Herbalife. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Post, the FTC said some complaints against the company were withheld because the information was “obtained through a law enforcement investigation.” The agency said yesterday that the language in its letter accompanying the FOIA request was incorrect and it should have said that the exemption from disclosure was related to “foreign sources.” FTC spokesman Frank Dorman defined “foreign sources” as government entities, including law enforcement agencies, and the exemption relates to information-sharing between the FTC and these foreign government agencies. The FTC said that it “may not disclose any material reflecting a consumer complaint obtained from a foreign source if that foreign source has requested confidential information.” The agency said it could not confirm, or deny, an investigation into the nutritional supplements company. Hedge Fund Mogul, Swiss Villagers Clash Over Ski Slopes (Bloomberg) Since hotelier Tobias Zurbriggen can remember, the business of running Saas-Fee has been a local affair. Now, the Swiss ski resort neighboring the Matterhorn is feeling the heat from a New York-based financier. Edmond Offermann, a nuclear scientist turned millionaire working for hedge fund Renaissance Technologies LLC, invested 15 million Swiss francs ($16.4 million) in 2010 to revive Saas- Fee’s struggling ski-lift company. “It’s like a hobby, which completely got out of control,” Offermann, 53, said in an interview from Long Island, New York. He wants to shake things up by managing hotels and the ski-lift operator in one company controlled by a single chief executive. JPMorgan Joins Rental Rush For Wealthy Clients (Bloomberg) The firm’s unit that caters to individuals and families with more than $5 million, put client money in a partnership that bought more than 5,000 single family homes to rent in Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California, said David Lyon, a managing director and investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. Investors can expect returns of as much as 8 percent annually from rental incomeas well as part of the profits when the homes are sold, he said. Man Allegedly Tries To Walk Out Of Costco With 24 Quarts Of Oil — Strapped To His Body (CBS) Jorge Sanchez, 35, was spotted about 4:30 p.m. trying to leave a Burbank Costco without paying for the oil. Store employees gave chase and officials said they lost Sanchez after he jumped a fence at the west side of the Costco parking lot. Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn told CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Andrea Fujii that nine of the 24 quarts were recovered during the foot chase. Authorities said Sanchez walked into the Costco and went straight to the oil aisle. He allegedly grabbed a couple of cases and emptied them. Said Ryburn, “He proceeded to hide the quarts of oil in his pants, socks, and in his shirt.” Sanchez was later apprehended near Beachwood Drive and Monterey Avenue, about eight blocks from the store. Officials said he was arrested on suspicion of burglary charges. Margo Martin was a witness to the apprehension. “All of a sudden, I hear ‘Get down on the ground’ and there is this man laying in our driveway.” Witnesses thought the man was running funny and weren’t sure why. Witness Manuel Atlas said, “He looked kind of heavy and out of shape.” Police said Sanchez was also running funny because he still had 15 quarts of oil strapped to him. Police said he used a bungee cord to strap the bottles down.